Last December, France and the Netherlands co-sponsored an unprecedented U.N. declaration calling for a worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality. Sixty-six countries signed the nonbinding declaration, including most of Europe, Japan, Australia and Mexico. However, the United States joined China, Russa, the Vatican and members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in refusing to support the measure.
– [France's human rights minister Rama] Yade and the Dutch foreign minister, Maxime Verhagen, said at a news conference that they were “disappointed” that the United States failed to support the declaration.
– “The Bush administration is trying to come up with Christmas presents for the religious right so it will be remembered,” said Scott Long, a director at Human Rights Watch.
But as with a number of other important issues, the new Obama administration has come with a change in attitude and a new position. At preparations for the U.N.’s so-called “Durban Review Conference” on racism and xenophonia in Geneva, the U.S. offered support for a proposal to condemn “all forms of discrimination and all other human rights violations based on sexual orientation”:
The Czech Republic on behalf of the E.U., with the support of New Zealand, the United States, Colombia, Chili on behalf of the South American states, the Netherlands, Argentina and a few others, took the floor in support.
While the measure faced resistance and eventually failed, U.N. Dispatch’s Mark Leon Goldberg notes, “Still, it’s relieving to see that the United States is now back on the side of the enlightened on this issue of basic human rights.”